A conceptualist who utilizes a variety of mediums, Laurence Aegerter cleverly employed staged photography for the works in this dual exhibition at Amsterdam’s recently opened C&H Art Space and long-established Galerie Art Affairs. The French-born, Amsterdam-based artist drew from a strategy she followed for a 2009 artist’s book that features photographs of museum visitors observing old master paintings at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre in Paris. This time she secured the use of the Hermitage Amsterdam for two days during the museum’s 2010 exhibition “Matisse to Malevich: Pioneers of Modern Art from the Hermitage,” positioned people and objects in front of the modernist masterpieces on view and then snapped pictures of the resulting tableaux.

Aegerter met with the participants in advance and selected expressive outfits from their wardrobes to complement the dynamic artworks in the show. Working with an assistant skilled at handling a medium-format camera and lighting, Aegerter shot 1,300 pictures over the course of two evenings. She eventually edited them down to the 28 final prints in the series. The resulting photographs capture colorfully clad viewers and whimsically placed curtains, ladders and Serrano hams interacting with canvases by Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Kandinsky and Kees van Dongen—giving these historical gems new meaning.

At C&H, Aegerter presented eight pictures on two walls of the gallery’s project space. GE 6572-100907-221019 (the titles reference, respectively, the depicted work’s inventory code in the museum’s collection and the date and time of the intervention) shows a Serrano ham, covered in red cloth and black fishnet, obstructing van Dongen’s 1908 Woman with Black Hat. In GE 6569-100906-183601, a woman with a butterfly tattoo and floral-patterned dress blocks Matisse’s 1909 Still Life with Blue Tablecloth, while GE 9660-100907-233355 captures another Matisse canvas, The Red Room from 1908, colorfully veiled by the plastic ribbons of a fly curtain, which gives the opulent painting the appearance of being glimpsed through a doorway of a Mediterranean home.

At Art Affairs, Aegerter exhibited seven prints from the series. GE 9662-100907-225223 ironically depicts a pair of the museum’s beat-up ladders confronting Kandinsky’s massive abstract masterpiece Composition VI (1913). GE 9128-100906-202849, an amusing piece that portrays a young man in a Bruce Lee T-shirt standing before André Derain’s Portrait of an Unknown Man Reading a Newspaper (1914), demonstrates Aegerter’s smart layering of information at its best.

Photo: Laurence Aëgerter: GE 9660-100907-233355, 2010, C-print on Dibond, 59 by 72¾ inches; at C&H Art Space.